A global optimization approach to pooling problems in refineries
The pooling problem is an important optimization problem that is encountered in operation and scheduling of important industrial processes within petroleum refineries. The key objective of pooling is to mix various intermediate products to achieve desired properties and quantities of products. First, intermediate streams from various processing units are mixed and stored in intermediate tanks referred to as pools. The stored streams in pools are subsequently allowed to mix to meet varying market demands. While these pools enhance the operational flexibility of the process, they complicate the decisionmaking process needed for optimization. The problem to find the least costly mixing recipe from intermediate streams to pools and then from pools to sale products is referred to as the pooling problem. The research objective is to contribute an approach to solve this problem. The pooling problem can be formulated as an optimization program whose objective is to minimize cost or maximize profit while determining the optimal allocation of intermediate streams to pools and the blending of pools to final products. Because of the presence of bilinear terms, the resulting formulation is nonconvex which makes it very difficult to attain the global solution. Consequently, there is a need to develop computationally-efficient and easy-to-implement global-optimization techniques to solve the pooling problem. In this work, a new approach is introduced for the global optimization of pooling problems. The approach is based on three concepts: linearization by discretizing nonlinear variables, pre-processing using implicit enumeration of the discretization to form a convex-hull which limits the size of the search space, and application of integer cuts to ensure compatibility between the original problem and the discretized formulation. The continuous quality variables contributing to bilinear terms are first discretized. The discretized problem is a mixed integer linear program (MILP) and can be globally solved in a computationally effective manner using branch and bound method. The merits of the proposed approach are illustrated by solving test case studies from literature and comparison with published results.
Pham, Viet (2007). A global optimization approach to pooling problems in refineries. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from